Standing in the locker room doorway following a recent game, Herman Stahl listened with great interest as the Abbotsford Vipers hockey team discussed the specifics of a Christmas gift exchange.
It was suggested that instead of buying presents for each other, the midget (age 15-17) boys squad could instead donate them to a local charity.
“I thought they might talk about it a little bit, but there was no talking,” recounted Stahl, the team manager. “Everybody was just nodding their heads, saying ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ It was pretty amazing to see them so united on that – rather than waste 15 bucks on each other, let’s give it away.
“I sent an email to the parents later on, and I said, ‘Your kids really warmed my heart by committing to that.’”
The Vipers decided to donate their gifts to the Salvation Army for distribution to those less fortunate, and they opened up the initiative to the rest of the Abbotsford Minor Hockey Association. They collected presents at their games on Sunday and Monday at MSA Arena.
In the end, 12 other teams contributed, and they combined to fill a small pickup truck with board games, Vancouver Canucks gear, Barbie dolls and more. Stahl dropped the donations off at the Salvation Army on Tuesday.
“We already have everything,” reasoned Vipers captain Riley Kerr, age 17. “We have hockey, we all play sports, we all have good presents coming. So we decided as a team to give to charity.
“It feels great. It’s too bad we couldn’t see the people in person and give the gifts to them. But just knowing they’re going to be smiling makes us all feel great.”
Stahl was encouraged by the response to the Vipers’ charity initiative from the rest of the minor hockey association.
“We had no idea how it was going to go, but it was neat how some of the parents and some of the teams got together and donated,” he said.
Stahl describes the Vipers as a sportsmanlike squad – their league offers a bonus point for having less than 12 penalty minutes in a game, and the Vipers, more often than not, collect that bonus.
“They’re a really good group of kids,” he said. “They’re pretty mild-mannered, fun-loving.”